Origins and evolution

How can we venture into the farthest reaches of time and space? Trace the evolution of our planet and its inhabitants? To capture the innumerable workings of life on Earth? Our researchers answer these questions. Listen carefully!

Although the epic story of the Earth and life is still partly a mystery, one of our departments is constantly writing the pages of this great book of a history of more than 4.5 billion years. Five research units explore the origins and relationships between the physical and living worlds of our planet. Our scientists go back to the first stages of the formation of the solar system and look at the major stages in the history of the Earth. The appearance and evolution of life is analysed through collections of meteorites, terrestrial rocks, fossils, animals and plants in relation to past and present environmental conditions.

The Museum's magnificent collections, some of which can be seen in our galleries, have been enriched over the last four centuries through explorations around the world. Their richness and scientific value are particularly crucial for tracing the different stages of evolution. Whether it is giraffes, water lilies, sabre-toothed tigers, granites, crabs or parasites, having specimens available over very long time and space scales makes it possible to discover new mineral, plant and animal species, to describe and classify them, and to understand their place in the history of the world. Our scientists often re-examine historical specimens to learn more each time, thanks to increasingly advanced analytical techniques. These investigations, combined with regular explorations of the world's lands and seas, help to gradually complete the tree of life. Sometimes it is just a matter of a detail, the chance to have extracted a unique fossil or collected an unexpected specimen. Don't forget: we only know about 10% to 20% of the current diversity! To protect this precious evidence, the department gives great importance to conservation methods, developing new procedures to protect natural collections.

Our researchers do not only focus on species! They also work on the scale of communities and ecosystems. For example, they assess the impact of certain events, such as the spread of invasive plants due to global warming or the dispersal of 'pests' such as raccoons following deliberate introductions, on a global scale and across large regions of the world. You can also follow the numerous missions at sea to study the physical and biological dynamics of the oceans and the movements and behaviour of the animals that inhabit them. All this work is useful for promoting the creation and management of marine areas.

In the Origins and Evolution department, you can also lift off to Mars! One of our teams is involved in projects to explore the Red Planet and search for traces of life. The scientists are studying the formation of planets in a more general way. To do this, they examine rocks and minerals that bear witness to the very beginning of our history. Among these specimens, meteorites or extraterrestrial samples brought back directly by space missions are very precious. If these extraordinary rarities are entrusted to the Museum, it is thanks to our expertise, recognised within the scientific community, and to the presence of powerful resources to for study them and to the international influence of the richness of our collections.

Le département Origines et Évolution (The Origins and Evolution department)

The department has 5 joint research units. It deals in particular with the question of biological evolution, on small and large scales, based on fossil or present-day models, and more generally with the origin of natural objects, as well as ocean dynamics and research on the conservation of collections.

ISYEB UMR 7205

The Institute of Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity (ISYEB) characterises and analyses the evolution of biological diversity, of which only 10% is known today. The mechanisms, structure and losses of biodiversity are studied in different organisms and in many regions of the world.

View the ISYEB unit website

CRC USR 3224

The mission of the Conservation Research Centre (CRC) is to study heritage objects of various kinds, in particular graphic arts, historical monuments, musical instruments and natural history specimens.

View the CRC unit website

IMPMC UMR 7590

The Institute of Mineralogy, Materials Physics and Cosmochemistry (IMPMC) uses highly innovative instruments to explore the evolution of the solar system, the formation of the first solid particles, planets and life, through the study of minerals with a history of over 4.5 billion years.

View the IMPMC unit website

CR2P UMR 7207

The Center for Research on Palaeontology - Paris (CR2P) is a unit devoted exclusively to palaeontology. Its objective is to shed light on the structure of kinship relationships and the history of life through the fossil record and past environments.

View the CR2P unit website

LOCEAN UMR 7159

Researchers at the Oceanography and Climate Laboratory (LOCEAN) seek to gain a better understanding of the functioning of marine ecosystems. They also contribute to the development of analysis, modelling and observation methods, as well as to the systematic observation of the ocean, in situ or from space.

View the LOCEAN unit website

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